Humans are social animals; we are inherently interested in hearing about
others. This need to gossip serves a multitude of evolutionary and social
functions. Here we investigate whether gossip serves to entertain us and
reduce boredom. In Study 1, we administered the 24-item Gossip Functions
Questionnaire (Foster, 2004) to a nationally representative sample (N =
2060). Participants also reported how bored they felt that day. Bored
people gossiped significantly more (r = .20). We also examined boredom’s
relation to the four social functions of gossip: entertainment, friendship,
influence, and information. We found that entertainment, friendship, and
influence functions were significantly associated with boredom (r > .17).
Interestingly, the information function of gossip was not associated with
boredom. We then extended this work in another nationally representative
sample (Study 2; N = 910), and experimentally manipulating gossip in two
online experiments (Studies 3 and 4; Ns = 159 and 424). Together, these
findings suggest that when people are bored, gossip may be used as an
emotion regulation strategy rather than as a source of information.